Pea, leek, white bean and sauerkraut soup

February 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Beans, Monthly menu plan: dinner, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

I was in California last week visiting my friends Spoons and Kathy, and I noticed that they had a copy of Peter Berley’s newest cookbook, The Flexitarian Table.  My friends said they never use it and that I could take it with me to Germany.  Yay! I already have two of Peter Berley’s older cookbooks, and they are two of my favorite, so I was very interested in trying out his new cookbook, especially since it’s geared at mixed vegetarian/omnivore families (like us). Although the cookbook isn’t actually vegetarian, every menu has a vegetarian option, so it’s very vegetarian friendly. This recipe for navy bean, fresh pea, and leek soup caught my eye because it calls for sauerkraut, and (under my mother’s telephonic tutelage) I just finished making a big batch of sauerkraut right before I left for California.  On my return, faced with a near-empty fridge brandishing two quart jars of sauerkraut, I decided to give this recipe a try.

The recipe is quite simple.  If you use frozen peas and have pre-cooked or canned/jarred white beans and sauerkraut on hand, then it’s almost trivial. The only prep is washing and slicing the leeks and a little mint. You saute the sliced leeks with a little mint and salt, then add green peas (mine were frozen), cooked white beans, and bean liquid or water. You simmer very briefly and then add sauerkraut. The original recipe has you simmer the sauerkraut in the soup for a few minutes, but I prefer not to cook it, and to just add it after the cooking is done. It cools the soup off a bit so you can eat it right away, before the peas lose their beautiful bright green color.

The peas, beans, leeks, and sauerkraut all add different textures, and although there’s not a lot of mint you can definitely taste it.  It’s a relatively simple but interesting soup.  And reasonably healthy too (other than being a bit salty).  It’s also a nice recipe for the spring if you can get fresh peas.  Even if you can’t, it feels more spring-like than wintery to me, perhaps because it’s so brothy.

This soup still tastes good as leftovers, but it’s not nearly as pretty because the peas turn putrid green.

Here are my modifications to the original recipe. I’ve changed both the amounts and the instructions a bit. I use the original amount of leeks and sauerkraut, but more white beans, peas, mint and broth, and less butter/olive oil.


  • 1 Tbs. butter or olive oil (original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of each)
  • 2 large leeks, white and tender green parts only, washed and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped mint + around 3 Tbs. more for garnishing
  • 1/4 tsp. salt + one bouillon cube (or skip the bouillon and use more salt)
  • 5 cups of bean cooking liquid, water, or light vegetable broth (original recipe calls for 4 cups of liquid)
  • 2 cups frozen peas (original recipe calls for 1 pound fresh peas before shelling, or 1 3/4 cup frozen peas)
  • 1.75 cups white beans with their cooking liquid (original recipe calls for 1 cup cooked navy beans plus their liquid)
  • 1 cup drained sauerkraut


  1. Wash and slice your leeks. Wash the mint, and pat it dry.
  2. In a large, 4-quart saucepan, heat the butter or olive oil (or a mix), over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and 1/4 tsp. salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the leeks are tender.
  3. While the leeks are cooking, chop the mint, and throw it in the pan with the leeks.
  4. When the leeks are tender, add the white beans, the 5 cups of liquid, and the bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, then add the frozen peas. Bring back to a simmer and cook until the peas are tender (about 5 to 7 minutes for fresh peas and 1 to 2 minutes for frozen).
  5. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool briefly, then add the sauerkraut.

Original notes from Feb 2013:

I followed the recipe pretty closely, using a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil, 200g of chopped leeks and 179g of cooked white beans.  I didn’t have four cups of bean liquid so I made up the rest with water and one bouillon cube.  My sauerkraut was made with caraway seeds, but I couldn’t taste it in the final soup.  I probably put in a little bit more than the 1 tablespoon of mint the recipe calls for.

Derek was not excited when I said I was making soup, but he quite liked the final dish. He thought it had lemon or vinegar, and was surprised when I told him all the acid comes from the sauerkraut.  He said that I wouldn’t have been sent home if I was on top chef.  High praise from a top chef fan! (I liked the soup as well.)

The recipe makes about five bowls of soup, and one bowl has about 175 calories (57% carbs, 15% protein, 28% fat).  It’s a good source of fiber and vitamin B3 and a reasonable source of folate and iron.

Update Dec 2018: I made this for dinner tonight, and everyone liked it. I put in about 1/2 tsp. of table salt and used water not bean juice. I added probably more than a cup of sauerkraut, but it wasn’t too salty. I only put in 1 Tbs. of mint with the leeks, but Derek and I added more fresh mint to our bowls. We ate it for dinner with ants on a log, and pretty much finished off the whole pot. I think next time I would make 1.5 recipes so I have some leftovers. If you use frozen peas the recipe is quite fast. After you slice up the leek there’s not much to it. I think the whole thing took me under 30 minutes total, with most of that being passive (not active) time. The main active time is washing and slicing the leeks.

Update June 2016: I made this for lunch today, and Derek said it was … good. But he wasn’t so excited. I enjoyed it, but I cut down on salt and added quite a bit more sauerkraut than the recipe calls for. And more mint and white beans. I just used water for the broth and it was a bit bland. It would have been better to use vegetable broth of bouillon I think. I cut up the sauerkraut into small pieces for Alma, as she still hates anything stringy. She ate her bowl mostly without complaints. I don’t think she loved it but the presence of green peas helped win her over.

Update Dec 2019: I made this recipe for lunch today, and served it with some leftover lentil, beet, and mache salad. Everyone really liked it, including Alma at almost 5 years old. It tasted like Spring. I followed the recipe pretty closely, using the liquid from a jar of beans along with some extra vegetable broth from the freezer and a bouillon cube. I used more mint than the recipe called for and more peas too (because Alma loves peas). The soup ended up very tasty but a tad short on broth. I’ll definitely make this recipe again this winter.

Update Feb 2020: I made this again for dinner and Alma (at 5 years old) scarfed up several bowls of it. Derek and I also enjoyed it.


1 Comment

  1. austingardener said,

    I am glad to hear the sauerkraut was a success. When I got home from California my batch was covered with a hard, green growth. I removed it and tasted the sauerkraut and much to my surprise it was delicious.

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